13 December, 2023

In Memoriam of Trans Canada Trail Co-Founder Pierre Camu

Pierre Camu Trans Canada Trail co-founder

We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Pierre Camu, at the age of 100. Pierre Camu was born in Montreal in 1923. He went on to – among other accomplishments – earn his PhD at Université de Montréal in Geography; serve at the helm of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; be awarded an Order of Canada; and of course, in 1992, co-found Trans Canada Trail with Bill Pratt.

Suzanne Camu, Pierre’s daughter, describes his passion for nature:

Papa was a geographer, and his connection with nature was always a fundamental part of him; he loved landscapes and was particularly drawn to the Saint Lawrence River. His desire to connect human beings with nature is one is his characteristics, along with his connection to family.

Bringing an improbable dream to life

Pierre Camu pavilion information

Pierre Camu's family

Marc Quinet, Pierre’s son-in-law, shared how in the lead-up 1992, when Canada celebrated its 125th anniversary, Pierre and others were tasked with coming up with ideas that would reflect such a significant milestone. He worked with Bill Pratt, whose pragmatic nature was a perfect complement to Pierre’s vision of a coast-to-coast-to-coast connection.

Marc says, “It was in Pierre’s DNA to come up with great solutions, along with Bill Pratt. Although they met resistance, they really began to believe in it as a group of greenways, waterways – every ways! – and develop a clear vision.”

Pierre served as Trans Canada Trail’s first Board Chair. From then on, he remained engaged and dedicated to the Trail.

Valerie Pringle, former Trans Canada Trail board chair, remembers Pierre fondly:

I think of how much we owe Bill Pratt and Pierre Camu. As the quote goes, ‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ They left the greatest trail ever.

[Pierre and Bill] were in charge of celebrations across the country for Canada 125 in 1992 and thought the local projects building trail were the most lasting and valuable. So, they used the bit of money left over to start the Trans Canada Trail. I don’t even think they realized how ambitious that was, but they knew it was worth it.

[Pierre] was a gentle and soft-spoken man who had a very distinguished career as an academic, geographer, Vice President of the St. Lawrence Seaway, head of the CRTC and many more. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was thoughtful and gracious, and passionate about the Trail.

Pierre was an avid outdoorsman – he loved cycling, swimming, skiing and more – and taught his children, and later, his grandchildren – to share his passion for the outdoors. At the family cabin in Saint-Pierre-de-Wakefield, Pierre taught his children to waterski. Suzanne recalls, “He was very patient, and I have a lot of warm memories outside, together as a family.”

On a more personal level, Pierre was a great lover of fine cuisine and fine wines, and along with his wife, Marie Marthe; Suzanne says, “He was a true gourmand.” Suzanne recalls Pierre’s particular love for oysters and gazpacho (not necessarily together!), and many great evenings spent with family, enjoying a delicious meal and a glass of champagne.

“Do good, and ignore the noise”

Pierre Camu and his grandson at Pierre's pavilion opening

Pierre had a favourite expression, which Suzanne says encapsulates his philosophy perfectly: “Bien faire et laissez braire” (translated loosely to “do good and ignore the noise”). His focus was on doing good, on helping others to do good in the world, and on encouraging human connection.

When his grandchildren were born, Pierre made sure to pass this philosophy on to them in all facets of life, from a deep appreciation of the environment to community connection. He had a special bond with each of his grandchildren, as could be seen when his beloved grandson Thomas was present at the 2010 Trans Canada Trail pavilion dedication in Gatineau. Several other family members, government officials, and Trans Canada Trail representatives were also on hand to celebrate Pierre’s vision coming to life and thank him for his dedication.

He was a frequent participant at Trans Canada Trail events, graciously granting interviews as requested. We send our greatest appreciation to Pierre for his contribution, for his vision of a coast-to-coast-to-coast trail, and for his passion for connecting people and nature. He will be greatly missed.